As published in the Immigration Daily on January 23, 2023
As we move into 2023 and the continuing threats to the economy, part of the answer to our problem is unsurprisingly – more immigration. Japan is a prime example of a closed society with declining birth rates and unwillingness to allow immigration which now finds itself with abandoned towns and villages, an aged population working into the 70s, and overreliance on overseas manufacturing. China may soon find itself in the same boat of an aged non-vibrant workforce as its population shrank for the first time in over 60 years in 2022, the total number of migrants to other countries far exceeds its intake of people coming into it, the long-term effects of its one child policy and current reluctance of females there to have larger families further depresses the population, and its workforce is rapidly aging with nearly 1/3 expected to be over 60 by 2035 (China’s official retirement age is 60 for men and 55 for women and although there is some movement to advance the retirement age, it is receiving resistance from those worried about the effect upon pensions and their desire to spend time with family).
The US fertility rate of approximately 1.7 births per female cannot sustain American greatness, as that is below the replacement rate of 2.1 required for the US population not to shrink without increases in immigration.
Support for increased immigration was voiced by Federal Reserve Chief Jerome Powell during a December 14 news conference that “Our labor force should be 3 ½ million more than it is”, and asking himself why is that, said “Part of it is just accelerated retirements – people dropped out and aren’t coming back at a higher rate than expected. Part of it is… Close to half a million who would have been working died from Covid. And part of it is that migration has been lower. It’s not our job to prescribe things, but I think if you asked businesses, pretty much everybody you talk to says,’ There aren’t enough people. We need more people.’” Citing Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the New York Times in the December 27, 2022, article, “Retirees Are One Reason the Fed Has Given up on a Big Worker Rebound” said that “Among those 65 and up, on the other hand, participation lags well below its prepandemic level, the equivalent of a decline of about 900,000 people. That has helped to keep overall participation steadily lower than it was in 2020.”
These are big numbers. The lack of workers is driving costs upwards for everyone due to inability to make things run smoothly in manufacturing, the supply chain, service industry, etc. The bidding war for workers is also a large factor forcing producers to keep raising prices with spiraling inflationary effects. The Fed’s only solution at present is to keep raising interest rates to make it more difficult for companies to borrow for their needs, which in turn forces them to lay off workers, with the anticipated ripple effect of US workers and their families having to cut back on purchases so that demand does not continue to exceed available supplies.
The US needs a younger population of workers, and those that are coming over with their families from other countries are usually the young and ambitious unafraid to leave their home countries.
We are not advocating open borders as there must be control over the numbers allowed into the country. That situation is amply demonstrated by the situation at the southwestern border. But the US must become a more generous nation in its immigration policies toward employment based, family-based, and refugee/asylum based. A good example of possible positive legislation could be an EAGLE (Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment) Act (which last year proposed to lift individual country quota limits without increasing visa numbers) being proposed this year with an increase in numbers so that countries are not fighting each other over the quota limits. Imposing order over the southwestern border through the Biden administration proposal to control it through a 30,000 per month two-year parole program could also help in the revitalization of the workforce. Hiking of H-1B cap numbers for workers in specialized occupations could also help as over 400,000 applications for registration last year vied for 85,000 slots.
Yet the reaction from Republicans and conservatives to positive changes in immigration law in the 118th Congress has so far been poisonous in seeking a restrictive agenda starting with the soon to be introduced “Border Safety and Security Act” and quoting their words “We Must Secure the Southern Border” without any ameliorative provisions.
Public opinion must be on the side of more immigration for the sake of the country. Recognition of the role of immigration in keeping the nation strong should be the overriding factor, and not the demonization of immigrants. A good place to start would be recognizing the contributions of the DREAMERS, children brought into this country who have been educated here and have contributed to the US in many occupations, including those most hazardous during Covid-19’s most deadly period. A continuous push should be made to give them permanent status and not have them continue being used as the ultimate bargaining chip in immigration negotiations. The Congress could then move on from there to other deserving or needed groups.